OTTAWA – The possibilities are grim. But you don’t see them yet.
That was the end result Wednesday, when officials from three levels of government – Toronto, Ontario and Canada – hinted at moderate projections of the severity of the COVID-19 crisis even though they refused to show it to the public.
Premier Doug Ford warned that a “wave was mounting” but did not specify the province’s expectations for the spread of the virus as overestimating the effects could “create panic”.
These expectations prompted Toronto’s top doctor to adopt tough new measures to slow the disease, although the city also refused to release the projections that left Dr. Eileen de Villa “deeply concerned”.
And in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office have refused to release details of the “range of scenarios” for COVID-19 which includes the worst projections that Trudeau has previously described as “fairly dire.”
Instead of publishing the details of this grim forecast of the virus, as happened this week in the United States when the White House said the virus would kill 100,000 to 240,000 people, Trudeau called on Canadians to respond the greatest challenge Canada has faced since the First World War. II.
“The government cannot win this fight alone. We must all respond to the call of duty. It is a service that most of us have never been called upon to do. Each of us must live up to our agreement, “said Trudeau in his daily media address to Rideau Cottage on Wednesday.
“Listening to public health rules is your duty. Staying at home is your way of serving. So be smart about what you do, about the choices you make. This is how you will serve your country and how we will all serve ourselves. How we do it right now determines where our country will be in two weeks or two months. It’s in our hands. It’s in your hands, “he said.
At Queen’s Park, after Ford was rushed to present a surge scenario, the province’s chief medical officer agreed to provide a screening next week.
But Ford and Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott will not go into detail at their press conference on Wednesday. Elliott said officials are waiting to see how the daily case count will play out after the province’s testing backlog is cleared, likely early next week.
“There are different models … If we choose one model over another, it sends two different messages,” Ford told reporters.
“These models can radically, radically change. If we underestimate on one side and overestimate on the other, and create panic if we overestimate. But the facts are very clear. We are crossing turbulent waters. We have said it over and over again to make sure you do not meet. “
Leading health officials then stepped in to fill in the blanks, Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, saying that “none of the scenarios” are good and that the pandemic will put an end to. test the capacity of the country’s health systems no matter what. And even though Tam said it was “not very useful” to use simple projections for the future spread of the disease, she explained that “the truth is that Canada’s health systems are vulnerable to outbreak of infections.
That’s why it’s important that governments expand their treatment capabilities because the general public stays at home and avoids contact with others to curb the spread of the virus, she said.
Failure to slow down infections could be “disastrous,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy public health administrator. He said that some of the worst projections show that 30 to 70 percent of Canadians could be infected – a figure previously cited by Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu – and that Canadians must “flatten the curve” of infection in order hospitals should not be inundated with sick patients who need critical care such as ventilators.
“The really difficult message to Canadians is that, in a variety of scenarios, this health care system is not well designed to deal with it if we do nothing about it now,” said Tam.
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“Even if you look at some of the lowest attack rates (how fast the virus spreads), it’s not something we want to see. “
In a later teleconference, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, explained that small changes in the rate of infection at the start of a pandemic can make huge differences in deaths. and expected infections.
“We want to be a little more specific than that,” he said. “It means that when we get more data and move up the curve a bit, we can get more accurate projections.
“What worries the Prime Minister is … you can confuse people if you jump between the numbers.”
“We prefer not to confuse the public, but we want to plan … stay tuned.”
There are already signs that health care systems across the country are under stress. The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, warned this week that the province could run out of medical supplies in a few days. In Ontario, Premier Ford created a $ 50 million fund to help companies move production to medical supplies. He warned that there is now “very little separation between us” and the serious impacts seen in Italy and Spain, two of the most affected countries where the virus has killed a total of more than 22,000 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“Thousands of lives are at stake,” said Ford.
In a statement Wednesday, the Ontario Hospital Association said he is “extremely concerned that many Ontario hospitals lack personal protective equipment, especially masks” worn by medical personnel.
Hajdu said Wednesday that the federal supply of medical supplies was “probably” not enough for Canada’s needs during the pandemic, blaming “decades” of government underfunding to prepare for a crisis like the one the world is facing right now.
Hajdu said that is why Canadian businesses must move on to mass production of the necessary supplies. The federal government said this week that it is spending $ 2 billion on wholesale purchases of supplies on the world market, including surgical masks, COVID-19 test kits and respirators. The money also goes to orders from Canadian companies that are increasing production of these health care supplies.
The federal government has already ordered 157 million new surgical masks, 60 million heavier N95 masks and plans to acquire 4,000 more ventilators in addition to the 5,000 in Canadian hospitals.
Despite this, Tam predicted that “some very difficult decisions” may be necessary as to who gets the resources and when, as the virus continues to spread in Canada.
“At the end of the day, our neighbor’s life depends on how seriously we take it, because at the end of the day, our health system cannot cope with a surge,” said Hajdu.
“Canadians play a very important role in keeping their neighbor, their loved one, their relative alive.”
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